Missions of Security

Neustatter’s European Security Services is open for business, and business is . . . too good? Neustatter and Astrid find themselves pressed to staff, train, and equip the agency while keeping up with their clients’ growing requirements in scope and complexity.And while they’re at it, handle one mission of security after another.

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Neustatter’s European Security Services is open for business, and business is . . . too good?

With the National Guard, private industry, and even a seemingly tranquil farming village caught in an explosive political crossroads all relying on NESS for missions of security, Neustatter and Astrid find themselves pressed to staff, train, and equip the agency while keeping up with their clients’ growing requirements in scope and complexity.

— A simple railway escort mission involves a secretive manufacturing client from Grantville bearing mysterious cargo and a captured fugitive all destined for Magdeburg during the Baltic War . . . what could possibly go wrong?

— The Bible Society hires NESS to guard a flock of Anabaptist, Catholic, and Lutheran high schoolers en route to riot-torn Erfurt and Jena, but will NESS’s own pastor tear them apart first?

— Already strapped for personnel, the last thing Neustatter needs is for a regiment of dragoon militia to choose their wagon train for . . . “involuntary provisioning.” Can a handful of badly outnumbered agents protect a village that isn’t sure it wants their help?

Missions of Security is the sequel to A Matter of Security, and contains the full text of the previously published short story, “Blood in Erfurt.”

Chapter 1: Winter Plans

Saturday, October 8, 1633

“It’s been just over a year since we met the up-timers at Alte Veste,” Edgar Neustatter said.  “We worked the winter in Grantville, went home, and brought our families back to Grantville.  We went to Basic Training and formed our own outfit.  This attack by the League of Ostend is just the next step.  Give it a little time, and we will have wagons and trucks to guard.”

News of the Battle of Luebeck Bay had arrived yesterday.  NESS could not afford to linger at the Thuringen Gardens day after day, but there was a radio at the high school broadcasting Voice of America.  Big crowds were gathering in Magdeburg, moving toward the palace.  No one really seemed to know what would happen next.

They waited anxiously all day, getting nothing done.  Neustatter stationed Ditmar in the high school, and the others took turns as messengers, bringing news back to everyone else in the refugee quarters.  When Otto returned and rattled off a whole list of names of people who were being cheered by the crowd in Magdeburg, everyone was relieved.  Astrid recognized President Stearns and Princess Kristina.  She did not know the rest of them—yet.

Sunday, October 9, 1633

NESS awoke at dawn on Sunday to someone pounding on their door.  The men literally rolled out of bed and reached for weapons.  Karl headed for the fireplace, slow matches in his hand.

“Neustatter!  NUS Army!  Open up!  We need you now!”

Neustatter motioned Ditmar into position next to the door, then he unlocked it and swung it open.  A soldier in uniform stepped in, and Ditmar hastily lowered his clubbed musket.  The soldier winced but did not step back.

Instead he asked, “Do you know about the Battle of Wismar Bay?  And the crowds in Magdeburg?”

Ja.

“John George says Saxony is leaving the CPE.”

“Bastard,” Neustatter pronounced.

“He has to pass orders before Saxony can do anything.”

“It is, what, eighty miles from Magdeburg to Leipzig, ja?” Neustatter asked.  “A dispatch rider could cover that in two days, reach Leipzig tonight.”

“Exactly.  Saxony might do something stupid.  Your personnel records say you can ride.”

“They do?”

“Somebody checked that box.  Can you ride a horse without falling off?”

“Ride, ja,” Neustatter answered.  “Cavalry charge, nein.

“We need patrols on the border, and we need them tomorrow.  You are to report to Sara Carroll for a check-out ride, and then you will be given your sector.”

The men were out the door in minutes.  Neustatter took a minute to tell Astrid, “Miss Schäubin, you will have to watch the office.  If any clients come in, tell them we have been called up but will return when we can.”

Tuesday, October 11, 1633

After the men left, the women and Johann went to Sunday services at the Lutheran congregation Ursula had found.  Now that they had moved to the high school refugee housing, they were probably just as close to St. Martin’s in the Fields, but Ursula was insistent.  Anna was inclined to agree.  Astrid figured a Lutheran church was a Lutheran church.  Neustatter later called it her charmingly naïve phase.

Astrid sat in the office each day they were gone, except Sunday.  Frau Ennis came by on Tuesday to check on the workmen’s progress.  Astrid scrambled to her feet.

“How are you all doing?” Frau Ennis asked.

“Anna and Ursula and I wish the men were not going to be gone for so long,” Astrid answered.  “It will be for no longer than their mission to Halle, but it seems like it.”

Leigh Ann nodded in understanding.  “I don’t like it, either, when James is gone.”

Then she looked around the room.  “Miss Schäubin, you need a desk and a chair if you are going to sit here all day,” she stated.  “And you need a phone.”

Ja, we do,” Astrid agreed.

“Then let’s go shopping.”  Leigh Ann said that like it was all settled.

“Someone has to be in the office.”

“Is everyone else out with Neustatter?” Frau Ennis asked.

Nein.  Ursula and Anna are in our quarters.”

“How ’bout they watch the office?”

“I think that would be all right.”  She hoped.

“If you don’t mind my saying so,” Frau Ennis continued, “it says something that you are the secretary.”

“Ursula is quite normal,” Astrid explained.  “She has a child and is a good cook.  Anna is simply quiet and sews very well.”

“And you’re the one who is getting a job.  Does Neustatter trust you to make decisions?”

“For some decisions, he must.”

“Are you and Neustatter . . . ?”  Leigh Ann’s question trailed off.

“Are we what?”

“You know.  Together.”

Nein!  Why does everyone think that?”

Leigh Ann shrugged.  “Sorry.  It just seems . . . natural.”

That sounded more like a question than a statement to Astrid, but she let the matter drop.

Ursula and Anna were initially hesitant but agreed to stay at the office.  Frau Ennis and Astrid walked into Grantville.  Astrid learned a lot as Leigh Ann told her about each business they passed by or the family that lived in each house.

“So that is the Historical Society.”  Leigh Ann pointed to a building on right side of the road.

Ja, Frau Haun,” Astrid responded.

“Please, Miss Schäubin, save the ‘Frau Haun’—or better, ‘Frau Ennis, since I took James’ name—for when we are signing the rental agreement,” she said.  “I’m Leigh Ann.”

“Then I bin Astrid.”

Leigh Ann smiled.  “Amideutsch?”

Ja.  Our village says, ‘Ich heet.’ It is PlattsdeutschHochdeutsch is Ich heisse.

“That piece of Amideutsch is our fault,” Leigh Ann told her.  “It sounds like President Kennedy’s speech.  Ich bin ein Berliner.”  She told Astrid what she remembered learning about the Berlin Crisis up-time.

“But use ‘Miss Schäubin’ at work,” Leigh Ann advised.  “Was ‘Miss’ your idea?”

“Neustatter’s.  When the men came home from the war in April, he called me Fräulein.  I told him not to say that where Herr Augustus or Frau Sophia might hear.  Or anyone who might go tell them.  Our men had been in Grantville from Alte Veste until good traveling weather came in the spring.  They started talking like you do here.”

Frau Ennis—Leigh Ann—raised an eyebrow.  “I’d heard that.  I don’t get outside of Grantville much, and when I do, it’s usually one of the towns right outside the Ring of Fire.  I hadn’t realized the nobility would take offense.”

“Some certainly will.”  Astrid smiled.  “I understand some of the adel near Grantville have gotten used to you up-timers.”

“Been contaminated by our ideas, you mean.  Absolutely.  Let me tell you some stories . . .”

Leigh Ann led Astrid to a furniture store.  It sold chairs, couches, desks, beds, and so on, all down-time-made but incorporating up-time designs.  At least, Astrid thought they were up-time designs.  She had never seen anything like them before.

“I know what you down-timers call a desk is what we up-timers call a lectern,” Leigh Ann told her.  “But that is not what you want.  You want to be able to sit comfortably with all your paperwork within reach.  Besides, I’ve seen the movies that Neustatter talks about.  I gather you’re the gorgeous blonde dame who’s going to be sitting behind the desk, so pick something you like.”

Astrid examined the desks on display one by one.  Several featured intricate woodworking on the front panel and around the edges.  She looked at the cost of one of them and blanched.

There were simpler designs, though.  She spotted a plain wooden desk and checked the price.  NESS could probably afford this one.

Leigh Ann raised an eyebrow.  When Astrid nodded, she looked for the sales clerk.

Astrid saw only one drawback.  “I do not think it will fit in the door.”

The sales clerk knelt down and pointed to something underneath the desk.  “There are heavy pegs here, here, here, and here.”  He pointed them out.  “They slide.  It comes apart.”

“That’s ingenious!” Leigh Ann exclaimed.  “Do you have those on the fancier models, too?”

“Some of them.”

“I will definitely mention these to my mother-in-law.  She works in real estate.”

Astrid got talked into two desks and two chairs.  She suspected they would need more chairs, but she wanted to talk to Neustatter first.  Leigh Ann helped her arrange delivery and payment.  Then they started back.

“What’s next on NESS’s list?” Leigh Ann asked.

“Up-time firearms and horses,” Astrid answered.

“I might be able to help,” Leigh Ann said slowly.  “Where are you going to keep the horses?”

“I do not know.”

“It’s a shame there’s no bridge across Buffalo Creek right there,” Leigh Ann mused.  “If there were, you could keep them in my parents’ barn.  Of course, if there were a bridge, the two halves of our property wouldn’t be so cut off from each other.  I wonder if we could put up a bridge . . .”

Build a bridge, Astrid marveled.  Just like that.

“Might even help Julia get back to the farm more often.”

“What do you mean?” Astrid asked.

“My mother works at a day care in Grantville.  She stays in town during the week and comes home on the weekends.  It’s not far as the crow flies, but it takes quite a while, and it’s almost impossible in winter weather.  My kids and I moved in with my parents while my husband is with the Army.”

“Is he at Camp Saale?” Astrid asked.

“No, he’s with one of the new units, but he’ll be back next month.  For a while, anyway.”

Sunday, October 16, 1633

The men arrived home in time for dinner.

“We rode horses for a week and made camp every night,” Hjalmar told Astrid.  “Guarding the salt wagons was more dangerous that patrolling the border with Saxony.  The salt mission at least had a brawl.”  He was going to say more when Neustatter called everyone together.

“Circle up!  Sit, stand, whatever.”

“Basic,” Hjalmar whispered to Astrid as they all gathered around.  Most found seats at the table in their quarters.

“The Confederated Principalities of Europe is now the United States of Europe.  Captain-General Gars will still be the emperor.  President Stearns is going to be the prime minister.”

Neustatter looked around to make sure everyone understood.  Astrid nodded.  She had heard that at her classes while they were gone.

“The New United States is going to be called something else, and Ed Piazza will be the new president.”

The women had heard that, too.

“The dragoon unit that Tom Simpson organized replaced us.  The Army said they want their best riders on the border and us guarding wagons.  The USE and Sweden are going to try to hold Luebeck and Wismar.  They’ll be under siege by the League of Ostend soon.  That is the French, the Danes, the Spanish, and the English.  The NUS Army is rushing supplies to those two cities.  They are using trucks—and using up a lot of fuel.  So supplies they might have moved elsewhere by truck are going to be carried by wagon.  Even when the trucks get back, they are going to conserve fuel as much as possible.  They need us.”

“Us, NESS?  Or us, all the mercenaries and security services?” Stefan asked.

“All of us,” came Neustatter’s answer.  “Some of the Albernians are out on a mission, so they will probably not take as many convoys as they otherwise could.  We will be allowed to take our Reserve weapons.  Our first priority will be cold weather clothing and range time.”  He looked at Astrid.  “Have any clients shown up yet?”

Nein.  But the office is almost ready.  I believe Frau Ennis will find a way to get us a telephone.  I need to talk to you about up-time weapons and horses, too.”

Astrid could tell Neustatter was interested, but he held his questions for later.  With dinner, discussion of the new Lutheran congregation, and the political situation, later became the next day.

Monday, October 17, 1633

Neustatter turned in place, studying the NESS office from the inside.  The two desks were set up to the left of the door.

“I like this,” he said.  “How much did this cost?”

Astrid told him.

“Not bad,” he said.  “Not bad at all.  Und you mentioned telephone, horses, and guns?”

“Leigh Ann—that is Frau Ennis—said she had some ideas.  She said if there were a bridge over Buffalo Creek here, we could keep the horses in her father’s barn.”

“That would really help,” Neustatter agreed.

He smiled.  “You do realize, do you not, that the reward for doing well is more work?  I need NESS’s secretary at the desk, answering the door and the phone.  If there is nothing else to do, do your school work.”

Astrid nodded.  That made sense to her.

A mounted courier arrived before noon with assignments for NESS.  They were needed in Erfurt right away—so much so that the Army was sending a pickup despite the fuel shortage.  He handed over written orders, which Neustatter read and passed to Astrid.

The Committees of Correspondence had been recruiting, and ever since the Battle of Wismar Bay, volunteers had poured in.  Several hundred were gathered in Erfurt, and the new USE Army wanted them at Camp Saale for basic training.

“Do not ask me who stays with the NUS Army and who moves to the USE Army,” the courier warned.  His weary tone said he’d been asked that question a lot already.  “They do not tell me who or why.”

“They are probably making it up as they go,” Neustatter agreed.

“How are eight of you going to guard hundreds of men?” Astrid asked.

“Oh, we are not.  Look at the end of the orders,” Neustatter told her.

“Supply wagons.”

“Food,” Neustatter explained.  “This would not be the only group coming to Camp Saale.  Thousands of soldiers will need a lot of food.  We are really there to guard the food from the recruits.”

Thursday, October 20, 1633

The men returned home Thursday night.  The women had already gone to bed, and the knock at the door awakened them.  Astrid quickly dressed and went to the door.

“Who is there?”

“Neustatter.”

Astrid hurriedly unlatched the door.

Danke,” Neustatter said.  He stepped out of the way as the rest of the men filed in.  “Long march, new recruits, and Camp Saale is really busy.”

“More groups like the one you brought in?”

Ja.  There are more new volunteers at Camp Saale than there were men in the entire NUS Army just a month ago.  I ran into Sergeant Wolfe from Bretagne’s Company.  They just brought in two food convoys from west of here and are headed back out in the morning.”

“Do you have an assignment?”

“We are to meet a Herr Schrödinger downtown tomorrow.  On Saturday, he has a shipment of goods going to Magdeburg.  He is going, too.”

Astrid frowned.  “He did not come to the office.”

Nein, we got this assignment through the military.”

“Why?”

Neustatter grinned.  “They did not tell us.  You may draw your own conclusions about the nature of his cargo, of course.”

Friday, October 21, 1633

Neustatter decided they had time to talk to Leigh Ann before the men were due to meet with Herr Schrödinger.

As they took the long way around—the only way around—Neustatter muttered, “Ja, I want a bridge, too.”

Leigh Ann welcomed them in.  She was holding a baby who could not have been more than a few months old.

“I did not know you have a newborn!” Astrid exclaimed.  “I am so sorry for keeping you the other day!”

Leigh Ann tucked a lock of hair behind her ear.  “Pffft.  I needed the break, and my father is perfectly capable watching Carrie for a couple hours and breaking up the occasional argument between Julia and James.  Those are the two you hear in the next room.  What do you think of the office furnishings, Herr Neustatter?”

“Just Neustatter, bitte.  The desk and chairs are just what we need.”

“Good.  Come, sit down.”

Leigh Ann led them to the same room as before.  Once they were seated in the armchairs and had drinks, she got down to business.  “We are having phone lines run to two of the offices.  We’ll add the other if I can find a phone for it.  You’re getting an old sit-on-the-desk rotary phone.  I hope that’s okay.”

“Any telephone is more than we expected,” Neustatter assured her.

“Astrid said you needed up-time weapons and horses.”

JaUnd I agree that a bridge would be helpful, but I have no idea how to do that.”

“Let me ask my husband about that,” Leigh Ann told them.  “He’s always been good at building stuff and put in a simple bridge on the back road to his hunting camp.  It was a ways away and didn’t come through the Ring of Fire.”

“A hunting lodge?” Neustatter asked.  “That is something the adel have.”

“And a lot of West Virginians.  James belonged to a hunting club.  A few dozen people got together and paid membership dues to keep up the camp building and rent the land from one of the big companies.”

“What was this camp building like?” Neustatter asked.

“I think we have a picture around here somewhere.  Excuse me a moment, please.”  Leigh Ann returned with a photo album and quickly leafed through the papers before stopping at a page with a couple pictures of her husband standing next to a buck.

“I have not seen that kind of deer before,” Neustatter said.  “Up-time?”

“Yeah.  Whitetail.  But there are plenty of ’em over in North America right now.”  Leigh Ann frowned.  “Up-time, we had game laws.  You had to get a license from the state, and that let you hunt during a certain season.  There were special days you could use bows or muzzleloaders or hunt doe.  The game laws kept the deer from being hunted out.  There were seasons for other animals, too.”  She paused for a moment.  “I don’t know if there are any whitetail left in the Ring of Fire or not.  We may have hunted them all that first winter, trying to keep everyone fed.  I hope there are still some out there, but . . .”

Neustatter nodded.  “We have hunting rights, too, but they are limited.  Und we understand—you could not let people starve that first winter.  The building behind Herr Ennis is very large.  Is that the hunting lodge?”

“Yeah.  It’s got a big kitchen and dining hall and a couple rooms with rows of bunks.  People can join the club, pay their due and a certain number of days’ labor, and hunt on the land the club rented from one of the big companies.”

“Hjalmar’s description of the barracks at Camp Saale sounded something like this,” Astrid said.

Ja.” Neustatter smiled.  “Until we went off to the war, I thought Herr Augustus lived in a schloss.  It is really just a hunting lodge.  The family divided their lands so much that there was not a real schloss left for each son and grandson.”  Then he shook his head.  “Und up-time commoners had something much closer to an actual schloss that they shared by subscription.”

“We had an upper class, too,” Leigh Ann said.  “They didn’t have titles—not in the United States, anyway—but they had a lot of money.  But there weren’t many of them around Grantville.  Their hunting lodges were really fancy and had employees to find the game for them.  In West Virginia, we hunted to put meat on the table.  That means we had a fair number of guns, for deer, small game, birds, even bear.”

Neustatter nodded his understanding.

“Right after the Ring of Fire, the Emergency Committee asked everyone to donate any weapons they didn’t need.  We kept what we needed and donated the extras.”

Neustatter nodded.  “We are issued up-time weapons when we are on an assignment for the Army.”

“We Americans had a jillion different calibers,” Leigh Ann continued.  “The Army picked a few to make ammunition for.  The rest have just been sitting there for a while now.  They are starting to return those.  If something like the Croat Raid happens again, they want those weapons being used.  And quite a few of us up-timers have a lot of land and personal possessions but are cash poor.  So, once the weapons are returned, some folks will sell them.”

Adel, bürgers, and security services will be happy to buy them,” Neustatter said.

“We’ve had some returned, and we’d like to give you the first opportunity to buy.”

Neustatter appeared just as stunned as Astrid felt.

Danke.  We truly appreciate this,” he said.  “What kind of weapons?”

“Pistols.  A couple thirty-eights and a twenty-two.  And a twenty-two rifle.”

“Those would be very helpful.  Danke.

They got down to haggling.  In the end, Frau Ennis got a good price.  On the other hand, if NESS were ever attacked, these weapons could literally be the difference between life and death.

When the men left to meet with Herr Schrödinger, Neustatter, Ditmar, Hjalmar, and Otto were carrying the up-time weapons.

Hjalmar, Wolfram, and Stefan came back to NESS’s quarters at dusk.

“Astrid, Herr Schrödinger did not just want to meet us.  He wants us to guard the cargo tonight.  So, you ladies and Johann are on your own until we get back.  It will be three days by wagon, then we move the cargo to boats with engines.  Whatever the cargo is, it is important.  The mission will be two weeks, but if it turns into sixteen days, do not worry.”

“I will protect them,” Johann stated.

Hjalmar nodded solemnly.  “You have the matchlocks if you need them.  Do you remember how to load them?”

Ja.”   Neustatter, Hjalmar, and Ditmar had drilled it into her often enough.

Hjalmar crossed the room to pick up one of the weapons.  “Show me.”

Astrid pantomimed loading the matchlock.

Gut.  I have to get back.”

Astrid hugged her brother.  “Stay safe.”

“Always.”

Chapter 2: The Spring Rush

Friday, March 24, 1634

NESS had better food, clothing, and shelter than they’d had in the village.  Anna and Ursula had medical care at Leahy.  The men had the weapons they needed.  In late March, they finally got to the last item on NESS’s list: horses.

Astrid had been over the books several times, and NESS simply could not afford to own horses.  But Neustatter and Karl went over to the livery stable anyway to see what they could learn.  They found the manager working with a horse in the paddock beside the stables. His rangy, well-muscled appearance suggested this was his regular practice.

He handed the reins to an assistant and shook hands with Neustatter and Karl.

“Johann Mestermann.”

“Edgar Neustatter.”

“Karl Recker.”

“What can I do for you?”

“I run Neustatter’s European Security Services.  We escort wagons, guard buildings, that sort of thing.  We need horses for some of our missions.”

“Horses are expensive.”  Herr Mestermann smiled.  “Of course, you already know that.  How often do you need to ride?”

“Usually it is a week or two at a time.  Sometimes it is that long again until the next mission.  Other times, it is only a couple days.”

“So, you would not actually need your own horses all that often.”  The manager quoted a number.  “That is how much it costs me to care for one horse for one month.  The average, you understand.  Plus, there is the initial purchase price.”

“Eight times that is out of the question,” Neustatter agreed.  “Even four times that.”

“You are not the only business in this position,” the manager went on.  “You could simply rent horses from us.”  He held up a hand.  “You will, of course, object that when you need horses, you absolutely must have them, and what if I am out?  So we have other options.”

“I think I want my secretary to hear these,” Neustatter told him.  “Karl, go get Astrid, bitte.  You can run the office for a while, ja?”

Ja.

Astrid soon arrived, and the livery stable manager showed them into his office.  The walls were rough wood and bare other than few sketches of horses in inexpensive wooden frames.  Astrid noted that he had the same model desk as she and Neustatter did.

Mestermann summarized their situation.  “Lots of people want horses, Miss Schäubin.  There simply are not enough for everyone who wants one—or who wants eight.  But NESS will not be riding every day, so why not split the cost with someone who needs to ride on the days you do not?”

“You mean rent horses from you,” she said.

“Sort of.  I am thinking of a timeshare. A group of people buy a horse, and each has shares according to how much money he puts in.  Then each signs up for the days he wants that horse.  NESS would be able to sign up for certain days and add others later.”

“It sounds like a library of horses.” Astrid observed the drawings hanging on the office walls and wondered if those were some of Mestermann’s horses.

The manager’s face lit up.  “I had not thought of it like that, but, yes, it is.”

“What if other . . . owners? . . . wanted the horses on the same days?” Astrid asked.  “What happens?”

“If one party has bought in at a higher level, that party gets the horse that day.  If they are at the same level, first to request gets the horse that day,” he explained.

“So, this places the customer in a group with a better chance of getting that particular horse,” Astrid observed.  She looked the drawings again, wondering this time if they represented the timeshare groups.

“Yes, of getting that particular horse—that chestnut whose drawing you are looking at is one of them, although most of the rest are simply my favorites over the years.  It might be a horse you have accustomed to gunfire, for instance.  And on some days, it might be your only opportunity to get a horse at all.  Once all the regular horses are rented for a given day, you could still get a timeshare horse—if you have bought in.”

“What if someone already has the timeshare horse?  Would we get one of the other timeshare horses?”

“You could get another horse in that same pool,” the manager explained, “but not one from a pool you do not belong to.”

Neustatter raised an eyebrow.

No offense, Herr Mestermann, but I would like a second opinion about this concept,” Astrid said.

The manager smiled.  “None taken.  My too-smart daughter thought of timeshare horses as a project in Herr Christopher Onofrio’s business class in the Tech School.”

“May we see her project?”

Herr Mestermann was only too happy to brag about his daughter.  He pulled the professional-looking report from a desk drawer and handed it to Astrid.

She started flipping through it.  Frau Mestermann had charted the number of horse rentals per day for 1632 and most of 1633, indicating the days when the stable had rented all its horses.  She had then designed a timeshare for a group of four horses for one steady client, two frequent clients, and two occasional clients.  Astrid could see that the arrangement would have worked out.  The clients’ higher costs were balanced by the fact that they would have been able to rent horses on more of the days they had wanted to.  It looked solid, so Astrid nodded to Neustatter.  She would still ask Herr Onofrio, of course.

Wednesday, March 29, 1634

Late in the evening of March 29, someone banged on NESS’s apartment door.

Neustatter opened the door with his left hand.  His right was at his holster.

“I am looking for Neustatter’s European Security Services,” announced an earnest young man in a National Guard uniform.

I bin Neustatter.”

The soldier spoke in quick Amideutsch.  “The railroad reached Halle today.  They beat their schedule by two days.  We received the radio message a couple hours ago.  The first supply trains are leaving in the morning.  They need guards.  You did not answer your phone.”

“The phone is in the office, not here.  How many guards?”

“All of you.  The seven, eight, and nine o’clock trains are covered.  We need you at ten.”

Neustatter nodded to Ditmar, who stepped past the messenger to go tell Stefan and Wolfram next door.

Danke.  We will be there.”

“MPs and a supply sergeant will meet you at Schwarza Junction and assign you National Guard weapons.  Be there by nine.”

Danke.”

“It is an express to Halle.  That means it is not stopping, so bring food if you want lunch.  You can stay over in Halle and catch a train back in the morning.”

After the messenger excused himself, and Ditmar, Wolfram, and Stefan came in, Neustatter whistled.

“Trains on the hour.  This is the big push.  Circle up.  I will make this quick.”

“This would be a good time for the League of Ostend to try to disrupt the supply line,” Ditmar pointed out.

Ja, it would,” Neustatter said.  “If they know about it.  Even if they do not—yet—seeing trains passing every hour ought to tip off any spies out there.”

“If they do not already know, it will take them time to report, receive instructions, and act,” Hjalmar stated.

“That is true, but if they do know, they might know all the details.  So take your NESS weapons, too.”  Neustatter patted his holster.  “Our pistols hold more rounds than most rifles and shotguns.  That could be a nasty surprise for someone.”

✽✽✽

The 10:00 express reached Halle without incident.  At Halle, the cargo was transferred to boat to be taken the rest of the way to Magdeburg.  The men came home the following day—and left again the next.  They were so busy for the next couple weeks, guarding trains north to Halle and coming back the next day, that Neustatter missed the dinner and a movie gathering.

Astrid remembered how long it had taken them to get from Halle to Grantville that first time, and here her brother was eating breakfast in the Ring of Fire and dinner in Halle.

The men discussed the news at length when it was announced that Admiral Simpson’s fleet had sailed from Magdeburg.  It was heading down the Elbe, of course.  Not long after, aircraft were reported over Hamburg, and then Simpson’s fleet attacked the city.  They apparently crushed the defenses quickly; the next news they heard stated that General Torstensson had an army outside the city—a USE army, not a Swedish one—and that the Captain-General had sent Prime Minister Stearns to take charge of Hamburg.

✽✽✽

As the war heated up, the nature of NESS’s missions changed.  It was interesting to see which of the warehouses they had guarded during the winter emptied first.  The NESS agents assumed those were military goods.  It took no more than two weeks to ship the stockpiles north by train and boat.

But as true spring replaced the muddy season, civilian assignments started to come in.  Other businesses had stockpiled goods in the winter months, too.  They understood that priority military goods were going out first, but they wanted to deliver their products as soon as possible.  So right after the two weeks of military shipments, there was a burst of civilian deliveries.  Most of these used smaller guard forces.  Some companies did not even use guards from Grantville to Jena or along the Thuringian Backbone.  NESS got hired for a long-distance mission guarding an industrial shipment to Kassel.  Neustatter left with Hjalmar’s team on April 14.  Ditmar’s team stayed in Grantville and worked a couple shorter missions.

Chapter 3: Bibelgesellschaft

A couple days after they returned home, Neustatter sent Hjalmar to the high school to gather information about one of the upcoming missions.

Astrid waited until the men had left.  “Why are we investigating our clients?  Do you not trust them?”

“I want to know what the other students at the high school think of this Bibelgesellschaft.  Who thinks well of them and who does not will tell us a lot.”

Hjalmar spent the better part of a couple days at the high school.  On the third day, he gave his report to Neustatter and Astrid.

“The Bibelgesellschaft is complicated,” he began.  “It is actually students—Lutheran, Catholic, and Anabaptist—with the Catholic priest Athanasius Kircher and the up-time pastor Albert Green as their advisors.  I actually found a couple papers members wrote.”  He handed those to us.  “They’re available for purchase in the library, just like any other research paper.  I figured it was worth the money.”

Neustatter nodded absently.  He skimmed one paper, while Astrid skimmed the other.  Her English was steadily improving.  She recognized canon, but textual criticism meant nothing to her.

“So, they are trying to find the original text of Scripture,” Neustatter drawled.  “Less Indiana Jones, lots more painstaking research.”

Astrid nodded in agreement.  From what she had been able to understand, that seemed a good summary.

“What is strange,” Hjalmar continued, “is that there are at least two, and maybe more, beliefs about this that have nothing to do with Lutheran, Catholic, Calvinist, and so on.  That seems to be how they all get along well enough to keep working together.”

“What do you mean?” Astrid asked.

“If their chief differences were Lutheran, Catholic, and Calvinist, they would get caught up on the larger arguments.  They have their own disagreements that almost no one else understands.  So there is no outside pressure against them working together.”

“Did you find any problems?” Neustatter asked.

“Besides escorting Catholics and Anabaptists to the University of Jena?  Nein.  Oh—I did find one problem for them, but not for us.  Some of them are not able to travel to Jena.  I think their parents will not allow it.”

Neustatter shrugged.  “Based on what I found out about the riot at the Rudolstadt Colloquy last year, that does not seem unreasonable to me.”

Friday, June 9, 1634

Neustatter and Hjalmar were waiting in the office when a knock sounded at the door.  It swung open, and a man in black clerical robes stepped in, closely followed by a young man in his teens.  A girl about the same age followed.  Pastor Al Green brought up the rear.

Astrid rose from behind the desk, and Neustatter and Hjalmar both stood.  Astrid saw the girl was eyeing Neustatter’s gunbelt.

Guten Morgen, Magister Kircher, Magister Green.” Neustatter considered the young people for a moment. “And Master Felke and Miss Meisnerin, if I’m not mistaken.” He shook hands with all of them. “I am Edgar Neustatter. I will be commanding your escort today.”

Neustatter was speaking English with an Austrian accent.  He had been playing with it ever since seeing Terminator 2.

“I don’t recall mentioning the names of any of the students,” Al Green commented.

“You did not,” Neustatter confirmed. He switched back to German. “I am training my men in investigation. I sent one of my team leaders to Calvert High.” He gestured toward my brother. “May I introduce Hjalmar Schaub? I assure you, he is older than he looks. Hjalmar has been in the field just as long as I have, since 1626.”

Miss Meisnerin and Pastor Green exchanged glances.  They both looked unsettled at Neustatter’s words.

“I apologize for seeming to investigate you,” Neustatter said smoothly, “but sometimes my clients are not aware of something that affects their safety. As a security consultant, I dislike surprises.”

“Did we surprise you with any safety concerns?” Athanasius Kircher asked. The Jesuit scholar hadn’t blinked an eye at Neustatter’s explanation.

Neustatter gave them a wry grin. “I have learned more about church politics than I ever wanted to know. I understand enough to know that your BGS would like to find the most accurate Greek Bible so that you can make better translations.”

Neustatter was still speaking.  Astrid wondered if any of their clients had noticed that the Austrian accent had vanished as soon as he got down to business.

“I also understand that collaboration between people from several different churches alarms the more extreme members of all of those churches. Which is why you came to us, ja? Hjalmar, would you assemble your team out front?”

After he left, Neustatter gestured toward Astrid. “May I introduce Miss Astrid Schäubin. Miss Meisnerin, you and Miss Kellarmännin will be her principals.”

Katharina shot Neustatter a surprised look and examined Miss Schäubin. Astrid’s long, blonde hair was swept forward over one shoulder and curled inward at the ends. Her blouse was the latest Grantville fashion, a more or less up-time style made of heavier down-time fabric. She wore riding skorts, leather boots, and a gunbelt, although her was the neat black polizei type, not a gunfighter’s rig like Neustatter’s.

Neustatter was very perceptive. “She is quite good.” He didn’t sound offended.

“I am sorry, Miss Schäubin,” Katharina apologized. “I have never met a lady soldier before.”

Astrid returned the observation. “I have never met a lady theologian before.”

Katharina smiled. “Fair enough. But that is not really what I am.”

“Me, either.  As Herr Neustatter said, you and Miss Kellarmännin are my principals.”

“Does it bother the men?” Katharina blurted out. “That you are a bodyguard?”

“Sometimes. It worries my brother, and some of the men have their doubts.”

“Me, too. Being in the Bibelgesellschaft, I mean. Some people do not take us seriously. Come meet Barbara. She is outside.”

The two of them left, still comparing notes in being a woman in what was usually a man’s profession.

Once outside, they saw that the rest of the Bibelgesellschaft members who were going to Jena had arrived.

“Barbara!” Katharina called. “This is Miss Astrid Schäubin. She is our bodyguard.”

“Miss Kellarmännin,” Astrid said.

Barbara giggled. “I am not anyone important. Only teachers call me Fräulein. I am Barbara.”

“And I am Katharina,” Miss Meisnerin put in.

“Then you must call me Astrid.”  She smiled at the two of them.

“I do not think I have met anyone named Astrid before,” Barbara said.

“It is Danish. My family settled in Holstein long ago. We lived there before the men went off to war.”

“Did you go with them?”

“No, after they first came to Grantville they came back and got their families. We all came to Grantville then.”

Katharina and Barbara seemed to expect more, but that was everything Astrid intended to say on the matter.

Hjalmar reappeared with Karl and Otto, and Neustatter introduced them. Father Kircher introduced the other Bibelgesellschaft members.

Katharina’s brother Georg had loaded everyone’s baggage already, so they climbed aboard the wagon. Kircher and Green seated themselves on the bench next to Georg, while the students sat on the benches along the sides of the wagon. Katharina was right behind Georg with Barbara next to her and then Markus Fratscher and Guenther Kempf.  Horst Felke, Johann Speiss, and Mattheus Beimler were across from them on the right side.  Astrid knew the Meisners and Barbara were Anabaptists, and Horst Felke was Catholic.  She was a little hazy about the others, but the two next to Horst were probably the other Catholics.  The one with dark hair—Johann—wanted to be a priest, and Mattheus was sort of a protégé of Athanasius Kircher.  That meant the other two were the Lutherans.  She thought Guenther was the one in the Young Crown Loyalists, and Markus was the one who wanted to attend the University of Wittenberg.  On the one hand, it was a little unsettling how much information Hjalmar had been able to learn, just by asking around at the high school.  On the other, it meant that the students generally did not have deep, dark secrets and did not hide their ambitions from students of other creeds.  She supposed on the whole that was reassuring.

The NESS agents were riding horses today.  Hjalmar and Neustatter were out in front of the wagon while Karl, Otto, and Astrid followed it.  Traffic was heavy enough that right now flanking guards would just get in the way.

The wagon rolled steadily along.  Occasionally it slowed.  Astrid realized that Georg Meisner was a skilled teamster who planned ahead for what might happen so that he rarely had to bring the horses to a complete halt.  Plus, he did not seem to have any problem letting his sister take the lead on the Bibelgesellschaft.

So, when the wagon slowed at the base of the hill leading up out of the Ring of Fire, Astrid wondered why.  Any momentum the wagon had would be useful.  Then she saw the men blocking the road.

Neustatter and Hjalmar had already turned around.  Hjalmar spurred to a gallop as soon as he reached level ground. Neustatter’s horse ambled back to the wagon, giving every sign of being bored.

“It seems there will be a slight delay,” Neustatter drawled.

“Who are those men?” Horst Felke demanded. “They have no right to block the road!”

“I believe I mentioned extreme factions in each of the churches,” Neustatter reminded him.

“But we’ve accounted for everyone.  Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ, Baptist, and Anabaptist,” Green protested.

“Ah, but if I’m not mistaken, Master Fratscher and Master Kempf are from Pastor Kastenmeyer’s Lutherans. The men in the road are from Pastor Holz’s Lutheran church. That is the church my men and I belong to as well.”

Astrid saw Katharina tense, but got diverted by Pastor Green’s question.

“Did you know about this, Neustatter?”

“I had my suspicions,” Neustatter acknowledged. “I suspect that Pastor Holz assumes he can block the road because the place he is doing it is outside the Ring of Fire.  He might think it is outside Chief Richards’ jurisdiction.”

“It seems Holz has outthought us,” Kircher said.

“Not entirely,” Neustatter said. “I sent Hjalmar to find an SoTF marshal. This is within the marshals’ jurisdiction.”

Katharina’s jaw dropped.

Neustatter noticed, of course. “Don’t worry, Miss Meisnerin,” he said. “I will get you to Jena.”

“I suppose we ought to see what they want,” Pastor Green said. “Georg, keep hold of the reins.”

Kircher climbed down from the wagon to let Green out. Some of the men in the road started shouting at them as soon as they realized Kircher was wearing his clerical robes.

Neustatter turned to one of his men. “Karl!” The two of them spurred forward on either side of Green and Kircher.

“If you gentlemen are almost done with the road, we would like to pass through to Jena,” Green said mildly.

“You heretics will not be going to Jena.”

“Why is that?” Neustatter demanded.

“Because they are heretics, Neustatter,” Pastor Pancratz Holz explained. “They want to change the Bible.”

“What I gather, Pastor,” Neustatter drawled, “is they’re wanting the University of Jena’s help in finding old Bibles.”

“They are trying to change the Scripture! I have read their books. They questioned everything about the Bible uptime!”

“No, we’re not!” Al Green burst out. “I’m no liberal! And I’m not a higher critic, either.” He proceeded to call the wrath of God down on a couple individuals named Graf and Wellhausen and then loudly pointed out that the Bibelgesellschaft had freedom of assembly, and if they wanted to assemble in Jena, they would, thank you very much. Pastor Pancratz Holz retorted that his congregation also had freedom of assembly, and if they wanted to assemble on the road to Jena, they would, thank you very much.

Astrid heard Katharina ask her brother, “What’s happening?”

“The Lutheran pastor is shouting,” Georg reported. “And Pastor Green is shouting back. And they all look confused and angry.” He sighed. “And now the Lutherans are shouting again.”

Someone in the crowd threw a rock.  Astrid do not know why anyone would think that was a good idea.

Neustatter immediately sent his horse plunging into the crowd, who scattered in all directions. Neustatter wheeled the horse around and pursued a couple who hadn’t scrambled quite far enough for his liking. Karl circled in the opposite direction, opening a gap.

“Take the wagon forward!” Astrid shouted to Georg.

Georg glanced between her, the disturbance ahead, and Katharina.  Then he flicked the reins.

“Is it safe?” Katharina asked.

Astrid brought her horse alongside the wagon. “I’ll watch this side. Otto will watch the other side. Keep moving.”

Georg looked rather startled but complied. When he reached Kircher and Green, he slowed not quite to a complete stop, and the two clerics scrambled onto the wagon.

“Holz is rallying his men,” Kircher pointed out.

Sure enough, the mob was coming back together further down the road, minus a handful of men whom Neustatter and Karl had driven far to the side of the road. Neustatter turned back toward the road and nudged his horse to a canter. A couple seconds later, Karl did the same.

Astrid wished her pastor weren’t trying to forcibly prevent her clients from traveling to Jena. Pastor Holz did have a point—their clients were mostly heretics—Catholics and Anabaptists. On the other hand, their clients had a point, too—they were bound for a Lutheran university to present their case as to why denominations that disagreed with each other should work together to examine and preserve ancient copies of the Scriptures.

One man pitched a stone at Neustatter as he cantered toward the men in the road. It went wide. Neustatter kept going. Astrid saw the men edging backwards, and then the crowd broke. Neustatter and Karl scattered them again.

Georg kept the wagon rumbling steadily forward. Holz was determined, but he and his men had to run to keep pace with the wagon. Neustatter and Karl were able to keep them away from the wagon. They were growing more and more frustrated but fortunately there wasn’t much available to throw at the horsemen.

One man made a run at the wagon, and Neustatter wheeled his horse around to head him off. Twenty yards from the wagon he lashed out with a boot and sent the man sprawling. Neustatter gestured at Astrid to take it from there while he turned back toward Holz—just in time to find another man making a break toward the wagon. He stopped that one, too. The third one was on his way in when everyone heard a siren.

A Grantville Police Department cruiser rolled up behind the wagon. One officer got out but the driver stayed in the vehicle.

“This isn’t Grantville!” Holz shouted. “You have no jurisdiction here!”

The officer passed the wagon. “Brother Green. Father Kircher.”

“He’s not Grantville police,” Georg observed.

“That’s Marshal Thomas. The marshals work throughout Thuringia-Franconia,” Astrid told him.

Up ahead, Marshal Harley Thomas was explaining that fact to Pancratz Holz.

“You cannot give orders here! This is Schwarzburg!”

“No, this is part of West Virginia County.  But I’m a SoTF marshal. We have jurisdiction throughout the entire state, including Schwarzburg. Pastor Holz, it’s illegal to interfere with other people’s right to assemble peaceably.”

“But it won’t be peaceably! They’re going to Jena to try to destroy the Scriptures!”

Harley Thomas sighed. It looked like it could be a long morning.

“There’s only one of you.”

The marshal stepped up in Holz’s face. “Yeah. But it looks like you only brought one riot with you, Holz. So get out of the way. Now.”

The situation wasn’t improved by Neustatter laughing out loud at that point. But Holz very grudgingly got his men out of the road.

They did make a few threats as the wagon rolled by.

“Any Lutheran who consorts with you heretics is risking excommunication!”

Green looked over his shoulder and said, “I’ll be sure to warn Johann Gerhard.”

Astrid was not at all happy with the situation.  Neustatter was shaking hands with Marshal Thomas, and it seemed to her that he was the only one who was not obviously upset.  Well, Karl did not seem too distressed, either.  Otto was frowning, as were Pastor Green and Father Kircher.  Katharina and Barbara looked concerned, but it seemed to Astrid that as Katharina looked around, she was doing the same thing Astrid was—assessing their party.

Hjalmar had caught up while Marshal Thomas was dispersing Holz’s men.  At Neustatter’s signal, Karl took the lead, and Georg got the wagon moving.  Neustatter and Hjalmar were deep in conversation as they rode behind the wagon, so Otto took one side, and Astrid took the other.  About ten minutes later, Neustatter rode up beside Astrid.

“Miss Schäubin, I have sent Hjalmar back to Grantville to talk to the other men and their families. And to keep an eye on Pastor Holz. I know he wanted be along on your second mission, but someone needs to brief Ditmar’s team. The men won’t care. We all had to pretend to be Catholics in Wallenstein’s army. But Stefan and Wolfram’s families have been Lutherans all their lives.”

“We could all just go to St. Martin’s in the Fields,” Astrid pointed out. “It’s Philippist but it would do until the new Flacian church on the Badenburg Road opens.”

Katharina had been listening in.  “Excuse me.  I haven’t studied much about the Flacian-Philippist dispute, but you obviously have strong feelings about it.”

Neustatter shrugged. “Flacians follow Luther more closely. It pi . . . annoys the Catholics more. Uh, begging your pardon, Father Kircher.”

“Our pastor in Holstein was Flacian,” Astrid added.

“And our pastor in Holstein was Flacian,” Neustatter agreed.

Katharina started to say something, but did not get past, “Um . . .”

“Yes, of course,” Neustatter agreed. “If Miss Schäubin and the others want to go somewhere else or all go to different churches, that is quite all right. Well, no, it probably is not, but they are allowed to. Miss Meisnerin.” He touched the brim of his hat and rode off to join Karl in front of the wagon.

After Katharina had recovered, she ventured, “Does he do that often?”

“Read your mind?” Astrid asked. “Ja.”

“Does it not bother you?”

“I am the secretary. It is quite helpful, actually.”

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1 review for Missions of Security

  1. mtimes6626 (verified owner)

    Excellent plot, sub plots and enough attention to detail without going overboard.

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